NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Lee Kenneth Richardson, who co-founded Crossroads Theatre Company and watched it rise from humble beginnings in a converted sewing factory to become a Tony Award-winning local theater, has died.
Richardson passed away Sunday at 69 after compiling a long and varied career around theater, according to a press release from Crossroads Theatre Company. The press release did not list a cause.
He directed the original production of Broadway Director George C. Wolfe’s groundbreaking play, “The Colored Museum;” he was a beloved former professor of drama at Temple University and more recently at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia; and he was the founding artistic director of Crossroads.
Long before Crossroads Theatre Company won a Tony Award for Regional Theatre, Richardson and co-founder Ricardo Khan met as undergrad students at Rutgers University, then continued their graduate studies at the Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Their learnings and experiences “confirmed in us that we had every right to, every chance to, and every ability to dream a dream and then make it happen,” said Khan, who helped launch Crossroads in a factory along New Brunswick Memorial Parkway in 1978.
“We sought to establish a theatre arts company to tell the stories of black folk that engaged, taught and made our audience want to embrace the heart and soul of a people who have great stories to tell,” Richardson said last year as Crossroads celebrated its 41st anniversary.
Although Richards has passed away, Crossroads remains true to its founding mission to create and produce artistic theatre at the highest standards of artistic excellence.
“Lee Richardson was a man of many talents artistically and the body of work he cultivated over the years is the legacy he leaves behind for all to celebrate and enjoy,” said Anthony P. Carter, President of Crossroads Board of Trustees. “Lee was proud of the strides Crossroads has made over the years and was particularly pleased about Crossroads honoring actor Denzel Washington with Crossroads’ first Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee Living Legends Award.”
In addition to Richardson’s work with Crossroads, he was also the Founding Director of Blacksmyths Playwright’s Lab at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum.
From 2008-17, he was an associate professor of drama at Temple University and recently taught acting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia
Most recently he was teaching acting at the University of the Arts.
“Whether he was at Crossroads or directing somewhere else, or teaching, which is what he did brilliantly in the last chapters of his life, it was always first about the work,” Khan said. “I’d say that if I had but one word to describe him, it would be passion, then, now and forever.”
Richardson is survived by his son Garrett Edmond Richardson of New York and brother Jack (Joyce) of North Carolina, family and many friends.